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Valuing outdoor spaces: discussing different models of outdoor learning in the early years

conference contribution
posted on 2023-07-26, 12:38 authored by Sara A. Knight
For the first time in 2007 the new English EYFS curriculum stated that outdoor spaces are as important to young children’s learning as the indoor environment, and that they should be outside for some part of every day. Forest School is impacting on early years provision in the UK, valuing an engagement with wilder spaces. It is still less pervasive than the Friluftsliv tradition in Sweden and Norway, Udeskole in Denmark, which seem to symbolise a love of the environment embedded into the culture of those countries. In other countries, particularly the “developed” ones, many academics and practitioners are concerned to re-engage children with natural places, seeing this as a link to health and well-being, as well as engaging children with issues around climate change and respect for the environment. In less “developed” countries many children still spend significant periods of their days outside and there is a tension between a desire for progress and recognition of the value of what exists. In my research I am concerned to explore what the dominant models of outdoor experiences in the early years are in different countries, why are they there, and what can they tell us about the importance of outdoor experiences to young children. I am trying to collect the different methods by which practitioners and academics validate what they are doing, with a view to comparing them to find a valid model with which to influence policy-makers. At the conference I am keen to share my research so far, and to engage with colleagues from around the world in a discussion about “nature-deficit disorder”, about the Forest School movement, and about the importance of engaging young children with their environment.


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Early Childhood Curriculum, Policy and Pedagogy in the 21st Century: An International Debate


Chelmsford, UK

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ARCHIVED Faculty of Health, Social Care & Education (until September 2018)


Conference organised by the Early Childhood Research Group at the Faculty of Education, Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford

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